Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the rankings, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.
PuRP No. 16: Ryan Casteel (232 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 15 | High Ballot 12, Mode Ballot 16
Casteel, a 23-year-old catcher who played at Double-A Tulsa in 2014, feels very much like a prospect that is flying under the scouting radar. After all, not only did he play very well in High-A at age 22 (124 wRC+, 22 HR), but he also continued that level of production against Texas League pitchers. In 481 plate appearances against pitchers on average a year older than him, Casteel hit .280/.341/.445 with 16 home runs (125 wRC+) while splitting time as a catcher, first baseman, and designated hitter. Casteel was later selected for participation in the elite Arizona Fall League, where he hit .258/.321/.355 in 106 plate appearances (86 wRC+) while primarily manning first base.
This positional time share occurred from the outset of the season for Casteel, who had almost exclusively caught at Asheville and Modesto. He was behind the plate even less frequently after he suffered a fractured cheekbone while running the bases in July, catching in just 12 games the rest of the way. Of course, in the games that followed his injury, Casteel hit very well (a .338/.430/.500 line in 93 July plate appearances).
Still, the move away from Casteel handling regular catching duties does raise questions about his ability to stay behind the plate at the big league level. This is why most major prospect hounds (John Sickels of Minor League Ball being the exception, ranking him 15th before 2014) have largely ignored Casteel as a serious big league prospect despite his stats. It's not like other great catching prospects were blocking him; Tom Murphy (yet to come on this list) had a lost season, so really Casteel was losing catching time to players with even less prospect cred like Chris O'Dowd, Dustin Garneau and Jose Gonzalez.
Ultimately, it's tough to have confidence in Casteel as a catcher if he can't usurp the full-time job at the Double-A level. Still, I ranked Casteel 14th on my ballot, right in the prospect range of the system's top signal callers.
Casteel wasn't protected with a 40-man roster slot this off-season but also wasn't selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Look for him to spend some time in Triple-A this season with an outside chance of making a big league cameo with the Rockies as soon if the need is desperate or the player forces the issue.
Contract Status: 2010 17th round, Rule 5 eligible, three options remaining
MLB ETA: 2016